U.S. Government the major barrier to getting expiring Michigan vaccines into Canadian arms: MP Kusmierczyk

A line was painted on the road in the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel overnight, demarcating the physical border between Canada and the U.S. — a possible destination touted by Windsor’s mayor for administering COVID vaccines.

“What we’re trying to do is work out a sensible, reasonable, fair pathway to take advantage of doses that are going in the garbage,” says Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens.

According to the Detroit Free Press, More than 37,000 vaccine doses vaccine have been spoiled or wasted in Michigan — half those, in May alone.

Dilkens says he’d rather the vaccines just be shipped here but is pursuing this — and other unorthodox plans like using boats on the river — to highlight the need for a two-dose summer and win the battle between vaccine supply and spread of Variants of Concern.

“We’re getting closer. Things are starting to line up,” Dilkens says. “We wouldn’t be doing this for the theatre of it.”

But the fight to get Windsorites a second dose of the vaccine using surplus supply from Michigan is still running into roadblocks, which according to Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk (L), are being put up by the U.S. government.

“I can tell you the prime minister and ministers have been on the file about accessing surplus vaccines, but at the end of the day we are always bumping into the same barrier,” says Kusmierczyk.

Irek Kusmierczyk says he supports every effort taking place to increase vaccine supply, noting the Liberal government has made more than 100 phone calls to federal and state officials.

The barrier, he says, is the U-S government — which owns the vaccines — and due to “Trump-era” contracts, is restricted from exporting them across the border.

“We’re going to keep knocking on this door, we’re going to keep working together to try to access those vaccines to try to accelerate vaccination,” he says.

Kusmierczyk also notes supply is not a major issue right now, noting Ontario has 1.5 million vaccines — or 12 days of supply — ready to go into arms, with major increases to supply coming down the pipeline over the coming weeks and months.

Mayor Dilkens calls these “Liberal talking points” and argues that Windsor-Essex doesn’t have excess supply sitting in the freezer.

“The system doesn’t have a million and a half doses waiting out there sitting in a freezer because of some mismanagement,” says Dilkens. “That is an outright fabrication and I would say an outright lie. There is nothing sitting in a freezer.”

Onlookers say the mayor’s ongoing advocacy to secure surplus doses is keeping the issue top of mind for decision-makers on both sides of the Detroit River.

“I’ll give the mayor credit for pushing on all fronts, and obviously if it’s getting all that media coverage, then his strategy is probably working,” says Bill Anderson, of the University of Windsor’s Cross-Border Institute.

Anderson believes its time for both federal governments to find solutions that may involve bending the normal rules.

“When you see an opportunity for a major metropolitan area sitting on the border to really close a lot of the gap that’s left in terms of vaccinations, I would hope someone would move heaven and earth to get it done.”

Windsor’s medical officer of health told reporters Friday he is on board with the plan to accelerate local vaccine supply.

“We’ll continue to work on it, even quietly, even if you don’t hear me talking about it, doesn’t mean the conversations aren’t happening,” says Dr. Wajid Ahmed. And at the right time, if it’s all aligned well, we’ll be able to do that.”